You will not longer be required to wear a face mask, or physically distance, during air travel to and from EU countries!
Here is what you need to know…
EU Air Travel : Face Mask + Physical Distancing Not Required!
On 11 May 2022, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a joint statement, dropping their recommendation for the mandatory wearing of a face mask as well as physical distancing in airports and on flights.
From Monday, 16 May 2022 onwards, you will no longer be required to wear a face mask at airports, or onboard a flight across the European Union.
However, travellers with respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) are strongly recommended to wear a face mask.
Airports are also no longer required to strictly implement physical distancing. Rather, they should adopt “a pragmatic approach”, and avoid imposing distancing requirements if they “will likely lead to a bottleneck”.
Airport operators are also not required to impose physical distancing if they are “not required at national or regional level”.
That said, they are still asking airport operators to encourage physical distancing where possible, particularly in the meet and greet areas and around baggage carousels.
Face Mask + Physical Distancing Not Required In EU, But Still Recommended!
While the EU will no longer require you to wear a face mask, or impose strict physical distancing during air travel, they are both still highly recommended to prevent COVID-19.
Here are selected excerpts from the latest EASA and ECDC guidelines (PDF) for air travel in the European Union :
Medical Face Masks
Medical face masks (hereafter referred to also as ‘face masks’) are among the most efficient means to prevent the transmission of SARS-COV-2 including existing VOCs. As such, the wearing of masks should be considered in crowded indoor and outdoor settings, including air travel.
If the departure or destination States require wearing of face masks in public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to wear a face mask beyond 16 May 2022.
In other cases, starting 16 May 2022, aircraft and aerodrome operators should continue to encourage passengers and crew members, as part of their pre-flight communications as well as during travel through signage and announcements, to wear a face mask during flight as well as in the airport as a way to protect themselves and others and that they should respect others’ decision to wear or to not wear a mask.
In their communication, operators should highlight that people at high risk for severe COVID-19 are advised to wear an FFP2 respirator mask during the flight for their own protection. Experimental studies indicate that respirators are more effective than medical face masks both in limiting the release of infectious respiratory droplets when worn by the infectious source and in limiting the exposure when worn by the exposed person.
People with respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) are strongly recommended to wear a medical face mask irrespective of the requirements on that particular flight.
Physical distancing, alongside the proper wearing of face masks, has proven among the most effective non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent SARS-CoV-2 (including VOCs) transmission. Physical distancing should be encouraged in all airport areas, the arrival terminal (with a particular focus for the meet and greet area) and around the baggage carousels. Signage and communication material should continue to encourage physical distancing where possible.
However, implementation experience has shown that in some cases, strict physical distancing measures in the aviation environment (airport and aircraft) is not operationally feasible and creates additional unintended bottlenecks in other areas, increasing the exposure times and leading to operational delays touching the flight time limitation requirements and, consequently, flight safety. Physical distancing could therefore be added to the use of face masks where operationally feasible and where it does not result in additional crowding in other areas. If physical distancing measures cannot be implemented, the use of face masks should be encouraged for passengers.
PPE For Airline / Airport Crew + Staff
Airport operators, aircraft operators and service providers/suppliers should provide the necessary PPE to their staff members and ensure that they are trained in its appropriate use:
— Staff members who interact with passengers directly (e.g. cabin crew members, security check agents, assistants for passengers with reduced mobility, cleaning staff, etc.) should be encouraged to properly wear a medical face mask or, where available and the legal framework permits, a higher-standard face mask (e.g. FFP2/N95/KN95 respirators).
— Staff should be encouraged to practise respiratory hygiene at all times as well as frequent hand hygiene, either via appropriate hand-washing or by applying an alcohol-based hand disinfectant. The use of a protective gown or a one-use plastic apron can be considered for tasks that may expose staff to splashes.
— Flight crew members should be encouraged to wear a face mask whenever interacting with, or in the proximity of, other people. Once they are in the flight compartment and the door is closed, flight crew members may remove their masks subject to their operator’s policy and mutual agreement. Furthermore, the flight’s crew members should remove their masks for emergency situations and whenever requested by appropriate authorities for official purposes such as identification or alcohol testing.
— Aircraft operators should have on board one or more Universal Precaution Kits (UPKs. Such kits should be used by crew members who are assisting passengers with COVID-
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